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Celebrate National Book Lovers Day On August 9

Celebrate National Book Lovers Day On August 9

“Some women have a weakness for shoes… I can go barefoot if necessary. I have a weakness for books.” – Oprah Winfrey.

A sentiment that many of us feel, books have this amazing ability to take you wherever you want to go and push the limits of your imagination. On August 9, National Book Lovers Day officially gives those who love to read a day to celebrate. The day encourages everyone to find a good book, relax in their favorite reading spot, and read the day away.

I can remember when I truly fell in love with books. I was 14 and got a summer job at the Plaza Library in my hometown of Kansas City. It was through a youth program, and they placed me there, not knowing it was truly aligning the stars and the moon. I had always loved books, but this allowed me to experience them in a new way.

The Plaza Library was grand from the large, ornate doors to the tall ceilings and fixtures. My job was to place books that people had returned back on the shelves. I discovered books on every subject matter — things I didn’t even know existed. I still gravitated towards poetry, as well as books about Black writers, Black history, inventors, and culture.

I was at an age when I began seeking knowledge that reflected my own experience, therefore, searching for my purpose. I wanted to explore but as a young teenager, I was still naïve and inexperienced. So, I lived vicariously through the work of Maya Angelou. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper,” Angelou wrote in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. “It takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.” 

I read every word Angelou wrote and memorized them as if my life depended on it. There was a fearlessness to Angelou’s work that stuck to my bones like some good ole’ soul food. I was so taken by how she expressed herself through poetry. It gave me the courage to write my own.

That summer, I found books by Nikki Giovanni, Gwendolyn B. Bennett, Zora Neale Hurston, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Toni Morrison, and Nella Larsen. Their narratives stayed with me, most likely because they were the earliest poetic and narrative examples of Black womanhood for me.

The subject of literacy is actually a complicated one. There was a time when laws forbade enslaved Black people to learn to read and made it a crime for others to teach them. Movies and other resources have shown us these narratives. Some enslaved people learned to read from other literate enslaved people, while at other times a white person was willing to teach them in disobedience of the laws. Former abolitionist leader Frederick Douglas was taught the alphabet in secret at age 12 by his master’s wife. Eventually, he took control of his own education, reading books and newspapers in secret.

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Literacy threatened the whole institution and justification of slavery. Keeping enslaved people as less than human and dumb was the goal. But despite the consequences, many enslaved people continued to learn to read. Eventually, many enslaved people did specific work which required literacy. Preventing Black people from reading soon became an impractical strategy.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, following the end of the Civil War, literacy rates rose steadily among Black Americans, rising from 20 percent in 1870 to nearly 70 percent by 1910. 

We know that literacy is a powerful tool, otherwise, it wouldn’t have been withheld from us. It promotes thought, raises consciousness, and takes you beyond where you find yourself. We begin to see ourselves and one another differently; imagine who we can be and where we can go; visualize what’s possible.

Being able to pick up a book and read it is not a luxury. It’s a birthright we were kept from for too long. With so much negativity in the world right now, the power of books has taken on new meaning and significance.

Now, my personal library is more than a collection of books. It’s a safe haven. It’s where my joys, anxieties, and aspirations are congregated. I get to fill my shelves with the same wonderment and curiosity that I had at 14. Each book a testament to is a particular journey. Each book is significant to who I am becoming.

To take part in National Book Lovers Day, sit back, relax, and read. Choose a favorite book, or venture out into something new. Visit a new bookstore to shop for a new release, or shop online with an indie store. If you have children in your life, read to them and get them excited about all the adventures books can bring. Visit your local library, my personal favorite, and explore anything you can imagine. Use #NationalBookLoversDay to post on social media.

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